This report finds that, in many cases, the price differences for IT products cannot be explained by the cost of doing business in Australia.
The importance of IT products to every sector of Australian society can hardly be overstated. IT products are woven into the fabric of our economy and society, and have driven rapid change in the way Australians communicate, the way we work, and the way we live.
Australian consumers and businesses, however, must often pay much more for their IT products than their counterparts in comparable economies. In many cases Australians pay 50 to 100 per cent more for the same product.
Consumer and business concern over IT price differences prompted the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator the Hon. Stephen Conroy, to refer the question of IT pricing in Australia to the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Infrastructure and Communications for an inquiry and report.
Evidence presented to this inquiry left little doubt about the extent and depth of concern about IT pricing in Australia. Consumers are clearly perplexed, frustrated and angered by the experience of paying higher prices for IT products than consumers in comparable countries.
High IT prices make it harder for Australian businesses to compete internationally and can be a significant barrier to access and participation for disadvantaged Australians (in particular Australians with a disability).
Based on the evidence received over a 12 month inquiry, the Committee has concluded that in many cases, the price differences for IT products cannot be explained by the cost of doing business in Australia. Particularly when it comes to digitally delivered content, the Committee concluded that many IT products are more expensive in Australia because of regional pricing strategies implemented by major vendors and copyright holders. Consumers often refer to these pricing strategies as the ‘Australia tax’.
While the Committee recognises that businesses must remain free to set their own prices in a market economy, it has nonetheless made a range of recommendations that are intended to sharpen competition in Australian IT markets. The Committee hopes that these measures will increase downward pressure on IT prices and improve the access of Australian businesses and consumers to cheaper IT products.
Given the ever-increasing importance of IT products to Australian society and the economy – in driving innovation, reducing isolation in regional and rural Australia, or improving the lives of Australians with a disability – it is essential that Australians get a fair deal.